Making connections. For the Health of America.
Independence Blue Cross (Independence BC) supports its members who are most at-risk during the coronavirus pandemic and who may be facing overwhelming isolation.
Under stay-at-home orders, thousands of seniors in the Philadelphia region have been stuck inside during the coronavirus pandemic. Enacted to protect this very group, which is at increased risk for coronavirus, the orders may be contributing to the loneliness many of them were already experiencing.
A new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) found that nearly one-fourth of adults over 65 were socially isolated prior to the pandemic. That's because many are living alone, experiencing the loss of loved ones, living with chronic illnesses, and/or experiencing hearing loss, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
To help address these issues of health and well-being for its Medicare Advantage members, Independence BC is taking an unconventional approach: a friendly phone call.
How it works
To best meet the needs of its Medicare Advantage population, Independence BC used data they have on file to identify members who may live alone and have low-risk chronic conditions. Once identified, those members receive a proactive check-in call from an Independence BC employee volunteer.
These "Calls of Kindness" work like friendly check-ins, with a dual mission: to create a positive social interaction for seniors who may be lonely, and to make sure members have the support they need. In cases where they don't—perhaps they don't have transportation to the grocery store or need help accessing virtual care—the callers connect them with Independence BC case managers to help.
In one case, Independence BC was able to set a member up with meal deliveries.
In others, case managers helped members get mail-order prescriptions delivered to their doors.
Creating positive change
“My favorite call so far has been a member who couldn't believe Independence BC was doing this," said Diana Zalewski, a government markets business analyst and "Calls of Kindness" volunteer. “She told me about her routine during coronavirus and invited me to visit her art studio when we're allowed. I can't wait."
Zalewski also recalled an Independence BC volunteer who was going through a tough time of her own when she began volunteering for these calls. Finding comfort in helping members, she has been one of the team's most prolific volunteers, sometimes making up to 50 calls a week. "We're all enjoying the ability to give back and create positive change during a tough time," said Zalewski. "It's helpful for everyone."
To date, Independence BC has made over 2,000 "Calls of Kindness" and is currently recruiting more employee volunteers to help with the calls. In addition to the “Calls of Kindness,” Independence has registered nurse health coaches and employees on the Member Help Team reaching out to Commercial and Medicare members with chronic conditions and who are high-risk. All together, the teams have made more than 36,000 calls.
Independence Blue Cross is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, an association of independent, locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies. Stop, Breathe & Think is owned and developed by MyLife™, Inc. To discover more ways Independence Blue Cross is helping its members through the coronavirus crisis, visit them here.